Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Arctic Foxes Put Eggs In "Cold Storage" For Lean Times
National Geographic News ^ | 10-29-2007 | James Owens

Posted on 11/01/2007 2:37:47 PM PDT by blam

Arctic Foxes Put Eggs in "Cold Storage" for Lean Times

James Owen
for National Geographic News

October 29, 2007

Arctic foxes create "nest eggs" each year to prepare for leaner times, according to a new study.

Like squirrels gathering nuts for the winter, the small foxes hoard bird eggs in case there's not enough of their favorite prey—the collard lemming—to go around in the spring.

The stored eggs can last for up to a year after being buried, thanks to the Arctic permafrost and natural preservatives inside the eggs.

"It appears as if cached eggs are used as a backup for unpredictable changes in lemming numbers," lead study author Gustaf Samelius of Grimsö Wildlife Research Station in Riddarhyttan, Sweden, said in an email.

"This is a neat adaptation in an environment where food abundance changes dramatically both among seasons and years."

Samelius added that the study is the first to show the extent to which the carnivores can depend on stored rations.

Other carnivores are known to store food, the researcher noted, but they generally cache for only a few days and base their diets more on fresh kills.

"Our results of about 50 percent of the [arctic fox's] diet coming from cached foods might be on the extreme end" compared with other meat-eaters, Samelius said.

Cold Storage

Samelius's team based its findings on the behavior of arctic foxes living near Karrak Lake in the Queen Maud Gulf Bird Sanctuary in the territory of Nunavut, Canada, between 2000 and 2004 (see a map of Nunavut).

Karrak Lake is the summer breeding ground for up to a million snow geese and Ross's geese. The birds' nests supply ample pickings for the region's foxes, which store between 2,000 and 3,000 eggs a year.

Over the course of their four-year study, which appeared in last month's issue of the Journal of Animal Ecology, the team found that the foxes stored similar numbers of eggs each year.

) But the degree to which the mammals relied on their caches varied with changes in lemming abundance.

Collard lemming populations fluctuate dramatically over three- to five-year cycles, Samelius said, and the changes are largely unpredictable.

When lemming numbers were high, the stored eggs made up less than 28 percent of the foxes' springtime diet.

When the rodents were scarce, the eggs accounted for up to 74 percent of the mammals' food.

For the foxes, the eggs are a reliable backup system because they are abundant during goose nesting season and are well suited to long-term storage.

"Eggs are protected by the egg shell, several membranes, as well as chemical properties of the albumen [egg white], preventing microbial activity," Samelius said.

The cold conditions of the Canadian Arctic also extend the shelf life of stored eggs, according to the study team.

Chemical Proof

The new study monitored the arctic foxes' yearly diets using analysis of chemical markers called isotopes in samples of the animals' fur and blood.

Different levels of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in these samples reflected the different foods the mammals ate in the spring and fall of a given year.

Vincent Careau is an arctic-fox researcher at the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec who was not involved with the study.

He said that the new research offers solid evidence for what many biologists had previously suspected.

"Many noted the presence of egg shells in fox scats while there was no goose around, meaning that the consumed egg was inevitably recovered from a cache," Careau said, "but these observations remained anecdotic until this study came out."

How the foxes manage to locate their egg caches after such a long time remains a mystery, Careau added.

But studies of closely related red foxes and observations of the arctic foxes suggest that the animals use "spatial memory of cache locations and exploratory digging," he said.

"We also observed foxes spending a lot of time moving eggs from cache to cache," Careau added.

"This re-caching behavior probably improves memory of cache locations, especially if they progressively bring their eggs into one basket."


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: arctic; cold; coolanimalstuff; foxes; storage

1 posted on 11/01/2007 2:37:49 PM PDT by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: blam

2 posted on 11/01/2007 2:38:44 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

Sooooooooo...

why are ugly women known as “dogs”,

but attractive women are known as “foxes”?


3 posted on 11/01/2007 2:40:36 PM PDT by fishtank ("Patriotic Nationalism?" - YES!!!....."Globalist Multiculturalism?" - NO!!!,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

4 posted on 11/01/2007 2:40:39 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: blam; SunkenCiv
Arctic Foxes Put Eggs In "Cold Storage" For Lean Times

Oh. Nevermind.

5 posted on 11/01/2007 2:41:19 PM PDT by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

Good one and mark


6 posted on 11/01/2007 2:41:20 PM PDT by Dysart
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

Animals have amazing spatial memory. The same darned robin shows up in my yard every spring and this year he brought his new nestlings with him. They aren’t as combative as he is and you know they talk about the old man and how it isn’t worth it to pick fights with everything that moves because after a while you look like that old bird—kind of ragged.


7 posted on 11/01/2007 2:45:19 PM PDT by RightWhale (anti-razors are pro-life)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

I like green eggs and Ham
In a box
with a fox................


8 posted on 11/01/2007 2:45:33 PM PDT by Red Badger ( We don't have science, but we do have consensus.......)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Red Badger

I have a question for you
I should just ask it
should foxes put all
their eggs in one basket?


9 posted on 11/01/2007 2:58:28 PM PDT by Kevmo (We should withdraw from Iraq via Tehran. And Duncan Hunter is just the man to get that job done.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: martin_fierro; Red Badger
Desert foxes hide them in tanks.


10 posted on 11/01/2007 3:00:43 PM PDT by Larry Lucido (Hunter 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Larry Lucido

Just look at that magnificent bastard! I read his book!


11 posted on 11/01/2007 3:01:26 PM PDT by Petronski (Here we go, Steelers. Here we go!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Petronski

I thought Al Gore wrote his book. You learn something new every day!


12 posted on 11/01/2007 3:07:01 PM PDT by Larry Lucido (Hunter 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: blam
Excellent article. Thanks for posting blam. Artic foxes also pounce! Let's hope it's not on their cache. ;-D


13 posted on 11/01/2007 3:11:36 PM PDT by Daffynition (The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Daffynition

14 posted on 11/01/2007 3:37:06 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Daffynition

15 posted on 11/01/2007 3:39:10 PM PDT by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: blam
I thought it was "collared lemming" (see, for instance, the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collared_lemming).

The repeated use of "collard lemming" makes me think it wasn't just a typo, so I wonder if there is actually such a variant spelling (or even a different animal).

16 posted on 11/01/2007 3:41:48 PM PDT by snowsislander
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: martin_fierro

;’) Under certain conditions, this topic could qualify as a genetic archaeology ping...


17 posted on 11/01/2007 10:29:47 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Profile updated Monday, October 22, 2007. https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson